Letter to the Beaverton School District

Tuesday October 05, 2010 @ 12:45 PM (UTC)

As discussed yesterday, here is the letter I am sending to the Beaverton School District Superintendent.

October 4, 2010

Superintendent Jerome Colonna
Beaverton School District
16550 SW Merlo Road
Beaverton OR 97006

Dear Superintendent Colonna:
I was troubled to read yesterday about the reassignment of student teacher Seth Stambaugh after he responded honestly to a child’s question about his marital status and admitted that he was gay.

I attended Beaverton School District schools myself for seven years, and my sister graduated from Aloha High School. My mother was trained as a teacher and many of her friends taught or administrated in the Beaverton district. I care deeply about the district, and I was very disappointed to find out that the district in this case was Beaverton.

I know that there is more pressure on public schools now than ever. It must be tempting in a case like Mr. Stambaugh’s to assuage a parent’s concerns, especially when Mr. Stambaugh is only a student teacher, not an employee. But I would urge you to overturn the decision in this case, or at least formulate a new policy that would protect other gay teachers from this situation: from being forced to deny who they are or lose their jobs.

What Mr. Stambaugh said was not “inappropriate.” We allow, if not expect, heterosexual teachers to talk about their personal lives. I could probably tell you the marital status of each homeroom teacher who taught me in Beaverton School District elementary schools. By making the honest answer to a child’s question about Mr. Stambaugh’s marital status “inappropriate,” the District is supporting a narrow view of homosexual citizens, one that says everything they do is “sexual”. If there’s something inherently inappropriate about disclosing your marital status, then why were my BSD teachers overwhelmingly “Miss” and “Mrs.” rather than “Ms.”?

By dignifying this parent’s concerns and reassigning Mr. Stambaugh, the district is sending a clear message. That message is that homosexuals do not belong in school, that their very identity is inappropriate. This message is not only being sent to Mr. Stambaugh, to the parents and community: it is being sent to the children. Believe me, they will understand. And when some of those children realize that they themselves are gay or bisexual, they will remember.

In the light of America’s ongoing epidemic of anti-gay bullying and suicides by gay students, perhaps the Beaverton School District should reassess its policies about the discussion or avowal of homosexual identity. Perhaps Beaverton School District students would be better off knowing that gay children and teenagers don’t disappear, or have to hide, or have to leave the public sphere because they are inherently “inappropriate.” I think they could only benefit from knowing such students can grow up into public-spirited, well educated, unashamed adults like Mr. Stambaugh.

Sincerely,


Felicity Shoulders
Former student of Elmonica and Errol Hassell Elementary Schools and Mountain View Intermediate

Comments

Thank you, Felicity, for making this statement. It’s just too much to ask that people conform to a prejudiced and narrow definition of “teacher” in order not to offend the prejudiced and narrow views of some parents. I understand that administrators are responsible for responding to the needs of all parents, but that does require that they bend to the lowest demands. We still have a responsibility in public education to set a standard. In this case that standard is humanity.

I’m glad you agree, Jan. I have appreciated your recent blog posts about public education. It’s something I was raised to feel very strongly about, and continue to do so — I’m glad I went to public schools for 7 years, even though I ended up going private eventually. I love reading your considered and grounded inside perspective.

Writing the letters I don’t have time to write, better than i could write them. I am so proud you are my sister. :)

Your sister sent me this…NICE job. I was a gay student in the BSD, and I was extremely disappointed to hear about this. Thank you for speaking up!

I’m so glad it struck a chord! Thanks for dropping by.

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